200,000 forced from their homes for a shopping mall and cinema

 house demolition in Port Harcourt

Its hard to imagine being woken up in the middle of the night by bulldozers which are literally tearing down your house while youre still in it.

But this is a reality for nearly 200,000 people living in Nigerias town of Port Harcourt in the Niger Delta.  As the Guardian reports today, Amnesty's new report points out how  thousands of families face the very real threat of being forcibly evicted from their homes, with nowhere else to go.

Already 13,000 people who were living in a waterfront area of Port Harcourt have had their homes demolished and given little or no notice before the event.  Mrs Akpabio for example had to sit by and watch her home where she had lived with her husband and five children being demolished. As she was given no eviction notice, she had no time to gather her belongings.   She told Amnesty that everything was demolished: food utensils, television, fridge my clothes; my childrens clothes my childrens books, birth certificates. There was nothing we could do.

Residents of these waterfront areas cannot turn to the police for help. Instead the security forces in the region have been known to carry out brute force against anyone who dared protest against the evictions being carried out.  In October last year for example the police actually shot into a crowd of people who were peacefully protesting, leaving more than a dozen people seriously injured and at least one person dead.

Not only is using excessive force against civilians actually a gross violation of human rights, so is evicting people from their homes without providing alternative accommodation.  Yet at the moment the authorities in Port Harcourt continue in this practice unabated. Its all part of urban redevelopment programme in the area known as the Greater Port Harcourt Master Plan.  In the Njemanze waterfront settlement, more than 13,000 people were evicted from their homes. Standing there instead now is an eight-screen cinema complex.

Although most of the residents in the waterfront settlements have not seen the Master Plan, the idea in the Plan is to replace these homes with a hotel, shopping mall and a theatre to go alongside the existing cinema complex to allow for urban regeneration.

However little or no attention has been paid to the hundreds of thousands who are left homeless in the region. The Rivers State government claims to have undertaken a buy-out scheme, where they have given owners a replacement value for the land.  But most of the residents of the waterfront areas are not landowners they can claim no entitlement and have been given no alternative.

As the BBC reports, Amnesty International is today launching a campaign to bring an end to the forced evictions in Port Harcourt, Nigeria.

We are joining with community activists to hold to account the authorities in Rivers State and across Nigeria to ensure that they ensure the right to housing is upheld and that this basic right cannot be dismissed for greater commercial interests.

For more information, visit www.amnesty.org.uk/evictions

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Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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